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Restrict guest posts in Installing Gentoo and Newbies
Yes
63%
 63%  [ 23 ]
No
27%
 27%  [ 10 ]
I don't care
8%
 8%  [ 3 ]
Total Votes : 36

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klieber
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 12:02 pm    Post subject: Guest posts. Good? Bad? Discuss. Reply with quote

Folks --

Currently, guest posts are allowed in the Installing Gentoo forum as well as the Newbies forum. There has been some discussion about restricting those forums (as well as continuing to restrict the rest of the forums) so that guests may not post. Guests would still be able to read any/all posts in the main forums. (as they can now)

Primary reason for this is there seems to be an unusually high amount of "noise" coming from guest posts -- posts in the wrong forum, questions that have been asked 20 billion times before, etc. The thought is that, by requiring people to register, we will improve the signal-to-noise ratio in the forums and therefore improve the experience for all forum members.

Any strong opinions one way or the other on this? I'm sitting on the fence on this issue, so your opinions will definitely have impact on the final decision.

--kurt
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello,

While you're probably correct that guest posting results in spurious posts for the same questions over and over, I think by limiting posting access you are in essence closing this forum to a large segment of people who would not sign up for anything, let alone this forum.

There are plenty of people who are on the fence about giving out information of any kind to a web site or forum (see: everyone who posts to slashdot! :lol: ).

I'm just of the opinion that by closing off guest access you will turn away folks looking for support with Gentoo, sending them to other distros, which we don't want! :wink:

PLUS, you mentioned in the announcements area that you will be deleting accounts that are inactive for 4 months at a time. Since I spend most of my time lurking (as a registered user), I feel you would be spending more time purging mandatory registration accounts for someone who had one question every six months that you would need!

Thanks for listening.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DeadMonkey wrote:
PLUS, you mentioned in the announcements area that you will be deleting accounts that are inactive for 4 months at a time. Since I spend most of my time lurking (as a registered user), I feel you would be spending more time purging mandatory registration accounts for someone who had one question every six months that you would need!

Thanks for the feedback. One point of clarification on account deletions -- they only affect accounts that haven't visited the forums in 4-6 months. You can be a lurker and never post anything, but as long as you visit the forums at least once every few months (logged in under your account) your account will never be deleted.

--kurt
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From what I have seen (and I haven't been here all that long), guest posts seem to have the same signal to noise ratio as regular posts. I've seen plenty of registered users who post in the wrong forum or ask the same question.
Since the registration is quite painless I don't see the problem in making it necessary but I don't think it will change the problem.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 3:12 pm    Post subject: We all were once beginners Reply with quote

Maybe it's true that guests tend to make more mistakes when they are posting. Is there a reason to think that they don't make the same mistakes after they register?

Maybe guests are just Linux users who are 'trying out' Gentoo, and by offering them access to the forums we open the door to information for them. And they can experience what a nice community we are!

Another option for the newbies would be newsgroups, but there is maybe not the specific Gentoo knowlegde.

Keep the door open, we all have been in the same stage, where we were disoriented once in a while.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 3:17 pm    Post subject: By the way... Reply with quote

By the way...

Is there a valid reason why those Gentoo users, who think thet guests should be banned, don't need to express there reasoning???

I want to hear how they came to their standpoint.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 3:20 pm    Post subject: Re: By the way... Reply with quote

wilbertnl wrote:
Is there a valid reason why those Gentoo users, who think thet guests should be banned, don't need to express there reasoning???

No -- not at all. Everyone is free to express their opinions here. (as long as you're registered. :P)

--kurt
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, I'm going to play devil's advocate for a minute, not because my mind is made up, but because I want try and tackle this question from all possible angles.

The *only* reason these forums are successful is because there are knowledgeable people who are willing to donate their time to answer questions. If people don't answer questions, these forums cease to exist. In that sense, this forum depends on being treated as a community, with give and take among its members, rather than as a one-way outflow of information.

I will make the argument that, by registering for an account, you are more likely to become more involved with the forums and give back to the community. Thus, the more people that become involved as regular contributors, the more successful these forums become.

As for the argument that there are some people who refuse to give out any information over the web, I don't disagree with that, but I do discount that as something that should influence the decision making process. We don't ask for any overly-sensitive information and never disclose email addresses. You can be registered and never use cookies, so that argument goes out the window, too. If folks can't see past their tinfoil hats to realize we're not a threat to their personal freedom, then these forums probably aren't the right place for them to participate.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can certainly see the value in allowing guests to post as some have already mentioned. My main argument for requiring registration would be, if you can read the forums, you can register. That is, if you would like to post a question asking for support, you are able to register to do so. Being able to read the forums means you have some means of getting to them, so it is not making your installation any more difficult. Requiring a user to register would allow us to send the user a PM if we decided to move one of their threads. We cannot mail a guest this information. This could also improve the content of the forums over time. The 'Newbies' forum could actually contain threads most commonly asked. 'Why can't I su?' etc.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am kind of interested to hear why people post as guest, registration is very quick so it might be interesting to hear from some guests. Maybe it isn't the giving out information issue.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Valen wrote:
it might be interesting to hear from some guests.

If you're saying you hope some guests post opinions to this thread, you'll be waiting for a while. :D

As I read klieber's first post, guests are currently limited to posting in Installing Gentoo and Newbies.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ignore rac's last post. Consider lack of 'guest' input to be consent for requiring registration :D
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 7:47 pm    Post subject: What is noise? Reply with quote

Quote:
Restrict guest posts in Installing Gentoo and Newbies
Yes -- guest posts create too much noise!
No -- there's a good reason to let guests post and I'll list it below!
I care not what you do with your silly forums.


The reasoning for a yes here is "too much noise"

I'm just wondering how registration would have an impact on that noise? What is actually the definition of noise? What is a newbie allowed to ask? what is a guest allowed to ask?

To me it sounds more like: "I want to read/maintain this newbie stuff, but the content is annoying me, so let's see if I can change it in a way that makes me feel better."

Let's just look at that noise and what that means to you, why do you feel uncomfortable?
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 8:37 pm    Post subject: Re: What is noise? Reply with quote

There are several strikes against guest posts:

  • Guest posts make it very hard to follow threads. There is no real way of citing someone's post in a thread with just a name if people post as guests. And, yes, I do know that you can quote the post; this makes threads unnecessarily verbose.
  • Abusive posts and the like tend to be, though not limited to, guest posts.
  • Guest posts seem to reflect an inadequate perusal of the FAQ and other documentation more so than posts made with attribution. This is based on observation, rather than hard statistics.

I really cannot understand what makes the registration process too hard or distasteful? You can register without revealing ANY personal information and maintain anonymity.
wilbertnl wrote:
...
The reasoning for a yes here is "too much noise"

I'm just wondering how registration would have an impact on that noise? What is actually the definition of noise? What is a newbie allowed to ask? what is a guest allowed to ask?

To me it sounds more like: "I want to read/maintain this newbie stuff, but the content is annoying me, so let's see if I can change it in a way that makes me feel better."

Let's just look at that noise and what that means to you, why do you feel uncomfortable?
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 8:46 pm    Post subject: Re: What is noise? Reply with quote

wilbertnl wrote:
The reasoning for a yes here is "too much noise"

Don't read too much in to the yes/no options. Simply treat them as "yes" and "no".

wilbertnl wrote:
I'm just wondering how registration would have an impact on that noise? What is actually the definition of noise? What is a newbie allowed to ask? what is a guest allowed to ask?

Way back when, there used to be no restrictions on guest posts. The noise level was pretty high, so we restricted it somewhat. In the forums where guests were no longer allowed to post, I noticed a marked drop in the noise levels.

As for what "noise" means, that's a somewhat subjective term. IMO, noise is a post that is either in the wrong forum (All Things Gentoo was famous for this before we realigned the forums) or is easily answered with even the slightest amount of effort (reading the FAQ, etc.)

And, before you say that registered users create noise, too -- of course they do. However, the assertion is that there will be less noise by requiring people to register. No one is saying noise levels will drop to zero.

wilbertnl wrote:
To me it sounds more like: "I want to read/maintain this newbie stuff, but the content is annoying me, so let's see if I can change it in a way that makes me feel better."

I don't believe that's it at all. Newbies really have nothing to do with this - you can be brand new to linux and still have good netiquette.

wilbertnl wrote:
Let's just look at that noise and what that means to you, why do you feel uncomfortable?

Straw man argument. Just because people are proposing a change doesn't mean the current arrangement makes them feel uncomfortable.

Let's not focus on knocking down the reasons for proposing the change in the first place -- I'm not interested in slinging mud. Instead, I'm interested in hearing reasons why keeping guest posting ability is important. Tell me how that makes the forums a better place.

--kurt
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Updated the poll options with new, "anti-pedant" armor. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2002 9:19 pm    Post subject: Re: What is noise? Reply with quote

wilbertnl wrote:
Let's just look at that noise and what that means to you, why do you feel uncomfortable?

There are two main reasons, but I hope you'll forgive me if I have to become two different people to answer your question.

First, I am someone that needs help. I have read the FAQ. I have attempted to solve my problem. I have formulated my question in a clear manner. I post it. It gets buried in a sea of "why can't I su to root?" and "I forgot to mount /boot but I don't know it yet". The people who take the time to answer questions in the forums are (for the sake of argument) a constant resource. Having more of them spending time answering FAQs and writing pointers to FAQs means less probability that one of them will be kind enough to answer my question. So it goes unanswered, falls off the top page, and I continue to be frustrated.

Second, I am someone trying to give back by answering questions. I have posted pointers to the FAQ until my fingers bleed. It does not seem to matter. People are still blaming Gentoo for GCC ICEs, still asking how to install over a 56K modem, still awaiting the knowledge that the ALSA mixer starts out at zero volume. "What's the point?" I wonder. So I get frustrated, and I give up. Or even if I don't, I never see the question that my first person posted.

I was impressed when I learned of Axelrod's iterative Prisoner's Dilemma tournaments. He found that a very simple strategy called Tit for Tat was surprisingly effective at soliciting and keeping stable cooperative relationships. Tit for Tat basically works like this: when instantiating contact, be polite. Afterwards, be as polite as the other person was last time. I tend to follow this pattern, both subconsciously and semi-consciously, here. People that demonstrate willingness to work with me and provide clear feedback, I am much more motivated to help. Although I realize this is a bit of a stretch, guest posts violate the "first be polite" feature of _Tit for Tat_, and of the conversations I have had with people here that have gone poorly, guest posts have accounted for a majority. I am less patient with guests, because they are not demonstrating a willingness to hold up their end of the rope. See this thread for the formative moments of my opinion on this matter.

People often have a rash of questions as they are first getting comfortable with Gentoo (or Linux in general). Oftentimes, they don't know what information about their environment is relevant. If they are registered, we can easily check their posting history, and try to tailor the answers to their setup. We can sometimes find out what their hardware is, how experienced they are with Unix in general, etc. from past postings. This can make the answer more suited to their situation. You can't do this with guests.

Naan Yaar has suggested a policy of sending private messages to posters when moderators move their threads. Some of the other moderators are trying to adopt this policy as well. You can't send private messages to guests.

If guests can't post, there will be no more "accidental guest" posts, caused by people whose login has been timed out by phpBB. No more "that last guest was me, forgot to log in" posts.

I think that people are less likely to post FAQs and rudeness when their name, however fictitious, is attached to it. When I first came to the forums, I concentrated on trying to build up a reputation for making somewhat reliable statements, to try to gain the trust of other and future forum-dwellers. If I had a question, I tried to pose it in a manner that would be easy to answer, and to try to also give some information back at the same time to even up my karmic account. There's no motivation to keep a good reputation if there is no handle to attach your reputation to.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to say that I think Guests should continue to be allowed to post in Newbies and Installing Gentoo. Here's why:

First, it's a lot more friendly to people who are thinking about using gentoo to think that they can get some basic support without having to be part of the 'Gentoo Fan Club'. It's would make us appear elitist to require registration for posting in a Newbie forum. It's just plain not friendly, but these forums are. I wouldn't want to give the wrong impression.

Second, some of the more informative posts are quick tidbits dropped off by someone who may not have done so if he/she was required to register first. There is a lot of noise with Guest posts, but I think there's a decent amount of people who were browsing and found one thing that they knew a lot about and shared because it was quick and simple.

Third, there's not *that* many trouble spots out there. I know it's a little difficult to help someone who's posted as a Guest because you can't quote them easily, tell them you've moved their post, or keep track of which one is which, but this doesn't happen very often and for the benefits it brings to people who properly make use of the Guest feature this small problem is worthwhile. (Luckily, I don't have to deal with some of this because I'm not a moderator and I don't move posts. :))

Fourth, it will not attract more people or 'better' people to restrict Guest posts. I think there are a lot of people who post once or twice as a Guest and then later register because they came back and saw all the pretty avatars of the people who were kind, friendly, and nicely directed them to a post that they didn't see because they didn't put the word AND in their search of the forums. Be aware that there's a great danger in saying that you'll get 'better' people if you restrict Guest posting.

Fifth, the problems that Guest posts cause can easily be solved through methods other than restricting Guest posting. If too many posts are going unanswered because of traffic, find a way to increase the page size or restructure the forum so the categories aren't as broad. Move off-topic posts to an appropriate forum quickly and state the reason as you've been doing. People understand that you'll (moderators) have to appear like a jerk to make sure things stay helpful in a particular forum.

Lastly, if you do find that you just can't deal with guest posting and you're about to block them altogether, please consider making a guest forum. I just think that restricting Guest posts is awful harsh in it's appearance to someone who's browsing the forums for the first time.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another thing that might help get more people to register as opposed to posting as a Guest would be to change the statistics page's Top Posters stats to be the top 25 posters or possibly to make a separate category for moderators who are now in controll of the top five spots. I'm sure a lot of people check the statistics page before deciding to sign up or not. There's a lot to be said for the psychology behind using this as a statistic. However, I think this would also encourage more cheesy posts, which I don't have a problem with as long as they are in Off The Wall.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 5:02 pm    Post subject: Re: What is noise? Reply with quote

rac wrote:
I was impressed when I learned of Axelrod's iterative Prisoner's Dilemma tournaments. He found that a very simple strategy called Tit for Tat was surprisingly effective at soliciting and keeping stable cooperative relationships. Tit for Tat basically works like this: when instantiating contact, be polite. Afterwards, be as polite as the other person was last time. I tend to follow this pattern, both subconsciously and semi-consciously, here. People that demonstrate willingness to work with me and provide clear feedback, I am much more motivated to help. Although I realize this is a bit of a stretch, guest posts violate the "first be polite" feature of _Tit for Tat_, and of the conversations I have had with people here that have gone poorly, guest posts have accounted for a majority. I am less patient with guests, because they are not demonstrating a willingness to hold up their end of the rope.


When you say that the quality of your support increases when a guest is providing more information, then I agree with you.
When you say that a guest is violating basic social manners, then I disagree with you.

Not the guest is initiating a contact, but Gentoo is.

Gentoo is providing support to anonymous people who are willing to learn more about the product that's named Gentoo Linux. By restricting access to the forums, Gentoo is going to violate Axelrods directions.

When I want to buy a new car, and I want to just walk in and see what's available, what's attracting me, just to give me a better idea of what I want... I would NOT go in a dealership, where I was required to provide personal information, even to just walk in their showroom. Forget that, what is that dealer thinking?

If you would like to take a position as technical supporter, then you need to develop skills to deal with minimal information, improper information, etc. That's part of the job. It's not your first task to educate starters how to get proper support.
And I do understand your frustration, I too have a supportive job in the IT area. And when I don't like it, I should look for a different job.

I see that I'm more concerned about your attitude and frustration than about the reasoning for leaving the Gentoo doors open for anonymous guests, and I don't want to offend anybody, but for me it's just natural that starters, look-arounders, etc, should have some access to information without restrictions. And it's up to them if they want to increase the forum benefits by registering.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 5:38 pm    Post subject: Re: What is noise? Reply with quote

wilbertnl wrote:
Gentoo is providing support to anonymous people who are willing to learn more about the product that's named Gentoo Linux. By restricting access to the forums, Gentoo is going to violate Axelrods directions.

Just to clarify, guests will still be able to read, search and browse the forums.

wilbertnl wrote:
When I want to buy a new car, and I want to just walk in and see what's available, what's attracting me, just to give me a better idea of what I want...

Two points:
  • We're not a car dealership, we're a community. In communities, there are basic social precepts, of which a name by which people can identify you is one.
  • The primary purpose of the forums is not to sell people on using Gentoo, it is to help people with existing installations. You can argue that an ancillary purpose of the forums is to evangelize Gentoo, but that does not mean we should pursue that goal at the expense of our primary purpose.

wilbertnl wrote:
for me it's just natural that starters, look-arounders, etc, should have some access to information without restrictions. And it's up to them if they want to increase the forum benefits by registering.

Nobody is disagreeing with that. That's why anonymous users would still have the same ability to read and search the forums as any other registered user. In polite society, it's fine to be an anonymous bystander, but when you want to join in on a conversation, it's good manners to introduce yourself first.

A lot of the arguments presented against restricting guest posts seem to stem around the fact that we don't want to turn off potential Gentoo users. I take issue with that for a few reasons:
  • Gentoo is going to sell itself. People are either going to like or hate Gentoo based on the Portage system, time it takes to compile, incredibly granular control over their compilation settings, etc. They are not going to decide whether or not to use Gentoo because the forums require registration.
  • Almost every mailing list out there requires registration, including all the Gentoo ones.
  • IRC is still available for those folks who really don't want to take the time to register.
  • And, last but not least, we have 5000 registered users -- far more, percentage-wise, than we have guests. We've been averaging ~1000 new registered users per month. If we can decrease the noise for those 5000 users, isn't that more important than catering to the few guests who don't like to register? (that's not a rhetorical question -- feel free to respond)

At this point, I'm leaning towards restricting the guest posts on a trial basis. That said, I recognize it as a drastic step, so if folks have further thoughts on the issue, please post them here.

--kurt
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, let's say that we do restrict Guests from posting. I think what will happen is not that we reduce the level of noise posts but that we scatter it about all over our forums. If you think that registering is going to prevent a lot of noise in Newbies and Installing Gentoo then I would agree. There are a lot of Guest posts there that are somewhat 'noisy'. I don't think that it's all that much more than a registered users on a percentage basis, but that's somewhat ancillary. The point is that at least they are posting in the right place. If you make people register, then they will ask their "Why can't I su?" question in the Security forum or something.

Think about this: If you are a new user who is trying gentoo out and you are having trouble with something you may want to post your question. If you have to register you are more likely to not post in Newbies or Installing Gentoo for the simple reason that you would like to have a bunch of the most experienced people looking at your question and helping you with it. There are a lot of people who just don't want to deal with Newbies and, as someone who has a question that you would like a fast and accurate answer too, you would like to have their input. Perhaps you think this is a serious problem and it's very difficult for you to figure out because you've tried a lot of things. (or you think you have) Even just reading the descriptions of the Newbies and Installing Gentoo forums can make you think that those are the forums where you wouldn't get a really experienced person to answer you because they should have easier questions.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tristam29 wrote:
If you have to register you are more likely to not post in Newbies or Installing Gentoo for the simple reason that you would like to have a bunch of the most experienced people looking at your question and helping you with it.

Personally, one of the best ways to piss me off and drastically reduce my desire to answer a question is to try to game the system. If someone posts a question in the wrong forum because "it gets more traffic" or "the gurus hang out here", those threads usually get moved very quickly.

I interpret this as considering your question more important than other people's questions. I consider people who do this greedy, and I think it's bad for the forums when they act this way. It reduces the chance that I will try to help, and I will be surprised if I find out I am the only one who feels this way.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just because it doesn't actually translate to getting more help doesn't mean that it isn't something that people wouldn't do.
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Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva


Joined: 30 May 2002
Posts: 6553
Location: Japanifornia

PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2002 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tristam29 wrote:
Just because it doesn't actually translate to getting more help doesn't mean that it isn't something that people wouldn't do.

True, but if the same registered user does it a bunch of times, we can have a PM dialogue with them. If they still don't get it, klieber or Nitro can ban them. If people see that posts like this get moved quickly, and the poster's reputation tends to suffer, I think that the motivation to game the system will drop.

Back to Axelrod: the key thing that made Tit for Tat work is that the interaction was iterated. With Guests, that assumption does not hold, and in a one-shot Prisoner's Dilemma, the logical response, unfortunately, is to be rude and greedy. There is no reputation downside to getting smacked down for trying to make your question seem more important than those of others when you're a guest.
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